Trust in mainstream media outdoes social media

You can almost hear journalists across newsrooms in Canada breathing a sigh of relief.

Canadians still trust the mainstream media, despite the rise of social media, according to the latest Canadian Media Research Consortium (CMRC) report.

According to a recent online survey of 1,682 adults, nine out of 10 Canadians judged information provided by traditional news media to be reliable and trustworthy. This compares to only one in four who say information from social networks is reliable.

It is the latest in a series of studies by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, including myself, into the changing news consumption habits of Canadians.

“In an era of increasing fragmentation and competition for established news media, this is good news for traditional journalism,” said Fred Fletcher, UBC Graduate School of Journalism adjunct professor and lead author of the study, Even in the Digital Era, Canadians Have Confidence in Mainstream News Media (PDF).

The study did show that younger Canadians are more likely than their elders to have confidence in non-traditional news providers. But they still retain strong confidence in the mainstream media as well.

Our findings also suggest a difference in attitude towards social media between those who are immersed in this media ecosystem and those who are not part of this world.

Confidence in the information found on social networking sites is higher among frequent visitors to social networks. Among Canadians who visit social networks at least daily, some 40 per cent regard the information found there as reliable.

In contrast, virtually everyone surveyed who doesn’t use social media ranked it as not reliable as a source for information.

Given the growing influence of social networks in the distribution of news, it will be interesting to track how levels of confidence evolve over the coming years as a generation grows up with social media woven into their daily lives.

The Canadian Media Research Consortium report is based on an online survey of a representative national sample of 1,682 adults conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results were statistically weighted according to the most current Statistics Canada data on age, gender, region, and education to ensure a representative sample.

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